Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Mahatma Speaks

"Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink."

- Martin Michael Lomasney (aka "The Mahatma"), 1859-1933
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Ward boss, alderman, state representative, and state senator, Martin Lomasney had a long career as a Boston politician.  The son of Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine, Lomasney worked as a lamplighter and health inspector before entering politics.  He survived a 1894 assassination attempt which wounded him in the leg.

His cautionary advice was well suited to the world of Boston politics.  He was never indicted.

In 2012 Boston's West End Museum held an exhibit on Lomasney.  From its website:

When Lincoln Steffens, a New York journalist known for investigating corruption in municipal government, came to Boston to spend time with Lomasney, he found a man who was an exception to the rule. Steffens said Lomasney was probably the best public servant he had ever met, that he was scrupulously honest and wholly committed to his constituents. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote of Lomasney, "He lived a simple, low-key life, renting a small apartment and wearing the same old battered straw hat year round, but to the people of the West End he was a god. Arriving early each morning at his headquarters, Lomasney worked 365 days a year, caring for his people in all phases of their lives".

A lifelong bachelor, Lomasney dedicated his life to building his political machine through a base of unwaveringly loyal aides and constituents. According Suffolk University History Professor Robert Allison, "Lomasney would walk the city every night, often greeting immigrants as they arrived on Boston docks. He was very bright and invested a lot in real estate. In fact, he's responsible for the Boston Garden being built".

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